Every business has them: customers who are difficult, causing much strain as you go about your work. Some customers are too demanding, others change their minds after you have devoted hours to serving them, while still others make your life miserable in countless small ways.
Quite easily, you can send your bad clients packing, but that doesn’t solve the problem. Indeed, it may also harm your bottom line, especially if some of the more troublesome ones are also repeat and well-paying customers. The following are among the steps you can take to deal with difficult customers as well as employing a healthy dose of introspection on how you do business.
1. Identify the problem.
Listen to your difficult customer very carefully. Attempt to identify the problem. If you or your business is the problem, apologize and take corrective action. Your personality or the way that your team presents itself may come across wrong or is misunderstood. At least it may be in the eyes of this one customer.
Rather than looking at the complaint as simple criticism, consider that your customer may be presenting you with a gift. Namely, they’ve helped you identify a problem that you could not see. Their delivery may not be spectacular, but the gift of telling you what you do wrong can help you amend your ways and perform better with the rest of your customers.
2. Agree with them.
Instead of being defensive with your problem customers, agree with them. Tell them that you appreciate their candidness and that you will work extra diligently to resolve the matter and make corrections as needed elsewhere.
Agreeing with a client can disarm them, making them back off enough for you to diffuse the situation. Sometimes, your disarming tactic will reveal that it isn’t you that has the problem, rather it is the customer’s expectations that need to change.
3. Charge them more.
Some customers are simply trouble. You’ve been doing everything right, but they are just too picky and hard to please. You may want to quietly get rid of them or at least be compensated for the extra handholding that you must do.
Here, the best approach may be to simply charge your painful clients slightly more than your other customers. Perhaps a five percent premium, what will allow you dedicate an employee’s time to resolving their “issues” personally. The client may learn about your excess charge and protest — you just need to know if you are willing to hold your ground or lose them.
4. Fire them.
Just as employees can be terminated, so can your clients. You’ve tried everything to appease this customer, but to no avail. They’re still calling you, stopping by or otherwise interrupting your work flow. You need the peace and quiet — so fire them!
Review your customer’s contract carefully and look for a termination clause. You may need to wait until near the end of the contract cycle to cancel or serve adequate notice, typically at least 30 days. At this point, the customer knows that there are irreconcilable differences at play and may agree to terminate. Or, you may find that the customer does an about face and sings a new tune — perhaps begging you for your service and praising your work with a promise to ease up in the future.
Tough customers should be managed, but the changes may need to come from within to please your more difficult fans. Do what you can to reset the relationship, but you should also know that some people you will never please and that moving on may be the best move for all concerned.
See Also — 7 Challenges of the Entrepreneur